The sky isn't falling, the earth hasn't stopped rotating, and guess what? Wisconsin's Big Ten Football Title hopes haven't been extinguished just yet. A year ago two losses would've put teams like Wisconsin and Ohio State completely out of the Big Ten Title Race. Well, turn the page and the new divisions and championship game within the Big Ten has given us one of the most exciting ends to the college football season the upper Midwest has ever seen and the very real possibility that teams with more than one loss will represent their divisions in the inaugural Championship game.
Immediately following the loss to Ohio State on Saturday I stated on Wisconsin GameDay LIVE! that our hopes for the Rose Bowl were now gone. Well, I'm here to say, whooooa, time to hold off on that kind of thinking for just a bit. Sure our chances of heading to Indianapolis no longer rest completely in our hands, but we still have a good shot at winning a Big Ten Title. You may be thinking I'm crazy, huh? Well, it's not so far fetched.
Clearly, over 100 years of tradition have lead most of us to think that winning all or all but one game is the way to a conference crown in the Big Ten. That may have been true, but we're in a new day and age in the history of Big Ten football and the way the conference season has shaken out, it's clear that the days of running the table to be the champion may just be over. Still thinking I've got my Cardinal and White blinders on huh? Well, you're sadly mistaken my friend.
We're about to see one of the most interesting races in conference history and that could lead to teams with 2 or even 3 losses coming out of each division to play in the title game. Over on the Legends side of the table we currently have a 3 way log jam at the top of the race with Nebraska, Michigan State, and Michigan all sitting at 3-1 in conference play. Iowa sits just one game out at 2-2 and still have games against all three teams above them to go, plus Michigan and Nebraska have yet to play each other. So, it's very possible a 2 loss team could be on top of the Legends division and heading to Indianapolis.
Over on the Leaders side of things Penn State sits at 5-0 and have really not been tested yet and will face the gauntlet of Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin and could very well loose two or all three of those games, leaving them with 2 or 3 conference losses at the end of the year. Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Purdue all sit two and a half games back at 2-2 in conference play. Purdue is likely to fall away a bit having to play the likes of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State down the stretch. Ohio State has that game against Penn State and the season ending game with Michigan, while Wisconsin has Illinois and the season ending game against Penn State that could still very well decide the Leaders representative in the Big Ten Championship game.
In previous years it was pretty darn clear at this point in time who was in the running for the title, well, not exactly so in 2011 with at least 7 teams with a legitimate shot at the title at this point in time. We as fans clearly have to get used to the fact that a few losses, while hard to take, aren't the end of the world like they used to be as all it takes are a few breaks here and there and you can see your team in the Big Ten Championship game with a shot at the Rose Bowl sitting right in front of you.
While we as Badgers fans may be disappointed to see our shot at a national championship game derailed we have to take a look at the bigger picture, just like the team is doing right now. Win out and let the chips fall where they may and we still could be caravaning our way to Indy to cheer on Bucky. Even if we don't end up there this will be the most intense and interesting end to the Big Ten regular season in quite some time, so I say cheers to the new divisions as it's making every weekend much more interesting as a whole. Now, many teams who wouldn't have had hope of a Rose Bowl birth at this point in time a few years ago have hope entering November this year. Sit back and take in this historical season, as we may be seeing the beginning of a new era where the days of one or two teams pulling away from the pack to claim the spot of Rose Bowl representative are over.